Yes, missed last week. Rather a lot of puzzles being published and others being sent off to editors over the last two weekends, in fact. Still, the added effort in getting a Times Jumbo out into the world is unlikely to recur soon, so things may be quiet enough to get me back on schedule next weekend. In other Times Jumbo news, it’s worth remembering that the August Bank Holiday issue of the paper will have a Jumbo crossword in addition to the usual Saturday one. Guess who set this coming Monday’s?
Sticking with The Times. one of my puzzles has been the subject of a rare publication error. I keep a note of all dates of publication (insofar as I know them) and it’s now clear that there are, in fact, often two publication dates to consider for an individual puzzle. Normally they are the same, because they are the online publication date and the dead-tree publication date. But there are two processes at work, and they can get out of synch.
In this case, I had a puzzle due in the Times on 22 August, where it duly appeared for those who popped into their newsagent for a copy. Those online, on the other hand, had seen it back on 11 August, when the paper carried something different. The website Times for the Times has various warnings in place for those trying to navigate their way between the two calendars. The paper itself published the 11 August dead-tree puzzle as the online one for 22 August, and there the two exist, like unmatched socks (“Yes, I have another pair like that…”).
The blog there (in fact, see here and here), when it is not explaining the time-slip element, spends a fair degree of time discussing ‘la’ = ‘see’ (starting with the title), with a number of contributors apparently in ignorance of it. Chambers is the only one of the three dictionaries to give the exact definition, doubling down in the Chambers Thesaurus by saying that ‘lo’ is the old form of ‘la’. Collins notes it as a general exclamation with the etymology that ‘la’ = ‘lo’. The OED ignores it. There were some grumbles about crossword setters relying on dictionary definitions. But the thing is, I’ve been solving now for over 40 years, and ‘la’ = ‘lo’ = ‘see’ has been an ever-present bit of crossword jargon. So it’s something I simply turn to, and I wouldn’t say it was particularly unusual. One of Mervyn Peake’s characters (Professor Cutflower, is it?) tends to end every speech with ‘la’. Still, I don’t think it helped that it was the LA in the slightly unusual word TONSILLAR. I do think rarely used adjectives from familiar words are fair game, though, and I was surprised to see so many going for the far less convincing TONSILLOR – that doesn’t really look like an adjective at all to me.
And it all rather obscured the fact that it was my 200th Times puzzle, with a pair of TONs, one in each corner of the grid (TONSILLAR contributed to one of them). I suspect that the hidden pattern might have caught a few eyes had there been no other issues to discuss.
In other news(papers):
Pangakupu made a first appearance in the Guardian prize slot in August as well (Saturday 19th). Fascinated as always to see the bloggers’ mix of ‘bit too easy for the Prize’ and ‘up to the usual level of the Prize’. Magnus Magnusson always used to say that, whatever you might think about Mastermind, an easy question is one you can answer and hard one is one you can’t. When I was on the programme, I was complimented on knowing the word for the phase of the moon between half and full (‘gibbous’) with the person going on to say she thought that was a type of top hat. And, of course, she’s right – but the hat is ‘Gibus’ (it’s a sort of opera hat, one that collapses – I went and looked it up), a fact I would consider far less common than something like a phase of the moon.
What almost (but not quite) went by unacknowledged in the Guardian puzzle was the M?ori word. This was ‘taitai?’, which means ‘unlucky’ – this was my thirteenth submission for the daily slot.
Since I hope to be back next weekend, there’s really only the usual Friday puzzle in the Independent to mention beyond the Times Jumbo on Monday.